Tropical Leaves
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van build

in November 2021 I bought a van to self convert and travel the world in

watch how I turned this empty metal box into a travelling haven

all products linked below

Ford Transit 

The Van


Ford Transit

I went for a 2014 Ford Transit panel van, with a medium wheelbase and high roof. I chose Ford for their reliability and accessible labour & parts. The medium wheelbase will provide me plenty of space to live & work, whilst still fitting comfortably into UK parking spaces. The high roof allows me to stand inside the van when cooking and working, plus the ample headroom is great for upper storage. The Ford also has straighter walls which makes a great shape for building and the wider van allows me to sleep width ways.


The Design


Colour Story


for the tone of the van I shall be going for a neutral earthy palette

brightening up the space with light sand coloured walls & counter top

then a complementary ash toned wood for the lower cabinets and flooring

adding rich earthy shades with a copper sink & lots of leafy greens

then pulling in darker tones with a matt black faucet & exposed metal features

I shall also using lots of natural textures & fibres like linen, wood & ceramics

Colour Story
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The Body

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For ventilation and as an extractor fan when cooking, I installed the 40x40cm maxxair deluxe roof vent fan in clear tint. It not only has 10 speed settings, which can be controlled from a remote control, which can switched it between intake and expel. It can also be used in the rain and when driving, which is very convenient when travelling in England as you can never rely on the weather. Plus it has a bug screen already fitted to stop bugs entering your home.

I knew from the start I wanted a skylight in my van, being able to watch the stars at night from the warm and comfort of my bed, it was a no brainer. So when I found the maxxair roof-light which wasn't only reasonably priced, but also came in a 50x70cm model I couldn't resist. It comes with a preinstalled bug screen and blind, plus ventilation even when closed to keep airflow in your van at all times.

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For panoramic views in bed, I went for two vent windows with privacy glass and build in bug screens. I chose the larger model which is 101.6x38.1cm, so I could see more when lounging. I wanted lots of windows to allow a tonnes of natural light into the van and also allow me to be surrounded by nature, even when it's raining.

To dull the rattle of the van and the exterior sounds of rain or rowdy neighbours, I chose to sound deaden my van, also since I have two dogs who bark at everything. For the first layer I went for 'Dodo Mat Deaden Hex Roll' which is placed over 50% of each panel to stop the vibration. Then on top as a second layer I went for "Dodo Super Liner 6mm" which is a thermal and acoustic liner which not only dulls the sound but also keeps the van cool in the summer and warm in the winter. I decided to add this layers to make sure all the exterior panels were covered with something to prevent condensation.

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Since I shall be using this van in all four seasons, I wanted to well insulate the floor. Due to the ridges I felt a granule insulation would work best for filling all the gaps. Cork is a 100% natural material, harvested from the Quercus Suber tree. Its fee from chemical and toxins. Both thermal and acoustic insulating, water and fire resistant. A renewable raw material, which is lightweight and recyclable, an all round great eco-friendly solution.

For my walls however I chose to go for sheeps wool, another great eco-friendly choice. Wool has great thermal and acoustic insulating properties. It's natural and free from toxins. It does absorb water, however this is beneficial for a van, as instead of condensation sitting on the van wall and turning to rust. It gets absorb and release when necessary. The absorption of water doesn't affect its insulating properties or make it rot.


Rust Protection Paint

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When buying a secondhand vehicle, it will no doubtably come with a little or a lot of rust. This is very bad for your van, rust is a disease and will spread, deteriorating the metal of your van. So this must be the first thing you deal with. To remove it, simply sand or grind down any areas till there is no more rust, just shiny metal. If it is penetrated the surface and formed a hole, remove all the infection and seal it up. To treat the area and prevent future rust, clean the surface of debris and grease with vinegar. First apply some rust convertor to stabilise the surface, then for interior use apply some direct-to-rust paint. For the exterior apply some galvanised zinc paint then a matching exterior paint. 

I decide to use rivnuts to bolt my strapping to the walls of my van, this creates a strong base to attach my furniture to. This tool compresses each rivnuts into the wall of the van, so you are able to bolt into them. It's especially handy for attaching bulkier items, like bed struts, upper cabinets and bunk beds.

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Staying Safe


I chose to include a security system with monitoring in my build as I will be solo traveling, so this will give me and my family piece of mind. It means that if I am in the van and someone breaks in and attacks me, the security team can view this live and ring the police for me. To my system I added a motion sensor, glass break sensor, entry sensors on all the windows & doors, key fob, temperature sensor, water sensor, carbon monoxide sensor, fire detector, key fob and extra camera.

As a deterrent primarily, I chose to add a steering lock, mine was secondhand, but if I was to buy a new one I would go with the disklock which covers the whole wheel and is much more difficult to remove. A steering lock jars the steering wheel enabling the van from moving.


I decided to install a carlock tracker to my van, this allows me to track my vehicle if stolen, on a ferry or at the garage, giving me piece of mind. It alters me straight to my phone if my van moves, the engine starts or the device is removed, so I am aware my van is being tampered with and can immediately respond. It does however cost 6.95 per month for the app.